T. Boellstorff: Coming of Age in Second Life


I recently finished reading Tom Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. As an anthropologist Prof. Boellstroff added another site to the Archive of anthropology. It surely became a must-read in the growing anthropological literature on cybercultures. My major concern is what he repeatedly insists (also in the quotation below) that what he had done is an holistic approach like in the old days. It is certainly exciting to see how an old style is applied to a brand new field. However, holistic approach cannot escape being too descriptive and theoretically sharp. That doesn’t mean that one will not find much theoretically, there is certainly a good deal of discussion on virtuality, the age of techne etc but because of author’s hard work to outline an holistic view of Second Life, too much energy is invested there and somewhat more provocative and speculative argumentation is missed..

One of the key conceits I have taken from
?traditional? ethnographic methods has been to treat Second Life as a
albeit one that, like all cultures, has many subcultures within it. I
have addressed a range of topics, many of which could easily be the subject
of an entire book in their own right. What one gains from the traditional
approach is a holistic understanding of the constitutive intersectionality of
cultural domains.
This is quite different from cultural studies scholarship
that tends to focus on gender, ethnicity, class, religion, language, or some
other topic in relative isolation, gesturing at intersections in an additive
rather than constitutive manner. For instance, it is possible to see a shared
cultural logic of multiplicity behind alts, participation in more than one
virtual world, and the practice of iming multiple friends while chatting.
Creationist capitalism effected everything from screen names and friendship
lists to virtual real estate and ?prim hair.? The idea that virtual worlds
are places shaped conflicts over a ruined view, assumptions about value,
and the idea that a resident could be ?away from keyboard.? (p. 241)

Another review here.

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